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tv   The Communicators  CSPAN  May 16, 2011 8:00pm-8:30pm EDT

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that makes a perfect amount of sense but i don't think we canth do that the next two weeks. or excuse me, the next two months. my guess is it is either going to be done later this fall or of perhaps early next year before x we are able to achieve that kind of bipartisan revision of the tax code if we can even do it then that i hope we can.e tax don't need to be in the code. they complicated code and pick winners and losers. and more of those we can do away with and thereby reduce tax rates for everybody. the better off we would be. i am hopeful that we'll through these bipartisan negotiations be able to come together on significant savings. and the last point i would nag make is that i would not be concerned, however, that the united states of america will ever default on our debt. we won't. the president has made it clear. the secretary of the treasury has made it clear that we can't. if you look at the 14th if you look at the 14th i >> i don't think any cried
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tore -- creditor should be of the bill we're not going to pay them when the bill comes due. that's not going to happen. it's not a good situation when the income of the government is less than the bills that we need to pay because even though we pay creditors, it may mean our paychecks could be two weeks late, and i'm sure we'd like to see the bills paid on time, but i think we can come together and even avoid that result if we're able to work together as both sides and bodies in the congress have committed themselves to do. >> on the communicators tonight, a look at cell phone privacy with paul colbie reporting.
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>> host: well this week saw the first ever congressional hearing on phone tracking. the subcommittee on privacy, technology, and the law held a hearing on protecting mobile privacy. that's our topic. joining us is the senior editor for senior reportings. were apple and google on the hot seat this week? >> they were on the hot seat, and there's reports about apple and them collecting location information, how the information was used and there's controversy in the house and senate and writing letters, and al franken,
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the new chairman of the new committee, so they had to answer questions what the practices are and what they do and don't do. >> host: who discovered the if anies were capable of doing this? >> guest: the company would say the discovery had occurred all along, but tracking goes on and the "wall street journal" wrote something about tracking and what location information is used for so members in congress until really a few weeks ago didn't have any acknowledge of this. the companies say, well, the information's used for a lot of services that consumers want. they want to be able to know where the nearest restaurant is or where their kids are when they have their phones, and the question is how is the information used and do consumers know it's being used?
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letters to congress showed that there's a lot of players in the ecosystem, and not any of them fall under any particular law as the senator pointed out in his particular statement. there's no laws covering all this location based information. >> host: let's look at al franken's opening statement. >> now, today in this hearing, it's a specific kind of sensitive information that i don't think we're doing enough to protect, data from mobile devices, smart phones, and tablets. this technology gives us incredible benefits. let me say that and repeat that. this technology gives us incredible benefits and parents can see their kids and wish them good night even when they are halfway around the world. it allows lost drivers to get direction on emergency responders to locate a victim in a matter of seconds.
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the same information allowing responders to locate us when in trouble is not information all of usment to share all the time with the entire world, and yet, reports suggest that the information on our mobile devices is not being protected in the way that it should be. in december, an investigation by "wall street "wall street journal" 101 popular apps found that 47 of those apps, 47 transmitted the third party location to companies and most did this without user's consent. three weeks ago researchers discovered that iphones and ipads running apple's latest operating system gathered information about user's location, locations up to 100 times a day and storing that information on the phone or tablet and copying it to every computer that the device is
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sinked to. after that, the american public learned both iphones and android phones automatically collected information from users phones and sent it back to apple and google even when people were not using location applications. in each of the cases, the users had no idea what was happening, and in many cases, once users learned about it, they had no way to stop it. these breaches of privacy have real consequences for real people. a justice department report based on 2006 data shows each year over 26,000 adults are stocked but the use of gps devices including gps devices on mobile phones, that's from 2006 when there was a third as many smart phones as there are today. >> host: paul? >> guest: he makes interesting points. congress doesn't keep up with
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the technology on a daily basis, and what congress does usually follows kind of the technology. in this case, he pointed out at the hearing, the current laws are not set up for location based services. there are laws adopted in the 1980s and 1990s that are now out of date, so the senator and others, as well as some house members talked about legislation to cover location based services and more widespread security legislation data, privacy legislation saying if there's a breach, they have to notify people. more than 40 states have laws like that, but no framework. at the hearing yesterday, there's representers of justice, federal trade commission talking about the need for federal legislation. >> host: the representatives from the federal government agreed some kind of federal law is needed? >> guest: yes, they did.
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>> host: what was the mood of other members in the committee? >> guest: the mood was similar. the chairman of the full committee, senator leahy made comments that similar to senator frankens in that we need to update things. he said he's working on an update of the communications privacy act, legislation adopted 15 years ago before we had location based services, so i think there are a loot of similar comments made to senator franken's. >> host: wanted to ask about one thing in that opening statement, "transmitting data and information to third parties." who are the third parties? >> guest: the third parties can be -- people say there's a lot in the wireless ecosystem, but there's applications down loaded by people on to their phones, but a lot of companies could be involved in helping create the applications or application developers to make
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extra revenue or carriers or companies carrying these systems can transmit that data to others for marketing purposes. for instance, again, a lot of the location based services try to focus on making money off where people are, so, for instance, people say walking back from star bucks, you get a coupon saying come in and get a latte, that kind of thing. who gets the information? the problem is the application developers and operating system people, they don't fall under the laws like carriers do. for instance, the federal communications commission have laws governing carriers, and before they can take information of a person and use it for commercial purpose, they have to get permission from that person, but operating system makers and application developers don't fall under that regime. there's a lot of parties here. as he said at the hearing, you
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can have someone sell it to someone to sell it to someone, and the consent issue is complicated. how do you ask for concept? opt in or out? how do you do that on a small screen? is it the end of the 9-page privacy agreement that they just say yes, but didn't read it. >> host: one of the testifiers was mr. tribble. >> i asked why they were building a comprehensive location data base on iphones and ipads and storing it on people's computers when they synced up. apple's reply will be added to the record. "we build a crowd source data base of wi-fi hot spots, but they can be over 100
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miles away from where you are. those are not telling you anything about your location." yet, in a written statement issued that same week, apple explained that this very same data will, "help your iphone rapidly and accurately calculate its location or as the associated press summarized it, the data help the phone figure out its location, apple said, but steve jobs says those are not telling you anything about your location. mr. tribble, it doesn't appear both statements can be true at the same time. >> senator -- >> with this data -- >> sorry. >> does this data -- i understand, you are anticipating the question, and i'll just ask it and you'll answer. does it indicate anything about
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your location or doesn't it? >> senator, the data that's stored in the data base is the location of as many wi-fi hot spots and cell phone towers as we can have. that data does not actually contain in our data bases any customer information at all. it's completely anonymous, only bouts the cell phone towers and wi-fi hot spots. when a portion of the data base is downloaded to your phone, your phone also knows what hot spots and what towers it can receive right now, so the combination of the data base of where are those towers and hot spots, plus your phone knowing which ones it can receive right now, is how the phone figures out where it is without the gps. >> host: well, right after
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that the senator asked another witness who is a private consul at that particular time working with the "wall street journal" on their series and worked for various companies, does this information let them locate cell phones? he said basically it can locate devices accurately. apple in the statement in april said in some cases cell towers are 100 miles away. maybe in rural areas, but in urban areas, it's pin poited accuracy. that's the concern. again, apple and others say, but, yes, people want the services. how do they get the services if they don't know where they are? apple says we don't track the customers. the concern is out there to do such a thing if someone wanted to, and that's a concern. >> host: paul, you referred to the independent communications consultant, and here's what ashkan soltani had to say.
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>> tell me, whose location is it? is it accurate? is it anonymous? can it be tied back to individual users? >> thank you, senator. that's a great question. yeah, in many cases, the location this data refers to is the location of your device or someone near it. while it's true in some rural areas this can be up to 100 miles away, and practice for the average consumer it's much closer in the order of 100 feet according to a developer of sky hook. if you refer to figure three of my testimony, you can see an example of this location as identified by one of these wi-fi geolocation data bases. i look my location based on gps and the location based on the strongest signal in the senate
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lobby out here, and the dot on the left refers 20 my low -- to my location determined by gps, and the dot on the right determines my location based on this wi-fi geolocation technology, and that's 20 feet from the bench. however you want to slice it, i consider that my location. it contains time stamps to describe at what point i encountered the access pointing and they kind of trace a trail about you. >> host: what are time stamps? >> guest: i mean, i think they basically show where the phone was at a particular time. the person could use that to find out where you were now. someone who would be interested in that is law enforcement, and law enforcement purposes for location data came up at the hearing as well. law enforcement might use that to find out, let's say they were pursuing a criminal to see where
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the phone was at a given time with the presumption you held the phone, and that's where it was. >> host: is this big business for cell phone manufacturers? tracking ability? >> guest: not for the manufacturers so much. the big business, the carriers make money from it. some of the applications, the phones have the capabilities and some apps are marketed through the carrier, and others, the carriers and the cell phone makers have these app stores, and you can go and buy apps, and then they get a cut of those. there's a lot of money made by the app stores, a lot of money being made by the carriers and as well as the people who make the operating systems. it was interesting in hearing one the witnesses talking about the market for apps is growing so much. this is jonathan zuck, and he pointed out the market is a couple billion dollars now, but
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it could go up to $50 in just a few years. the chairman of the fcc points out that just a few years ago there wasn't app stores, and now there's hundreds of thousands of happens for instance in the apple storement. it's just exploded. >> host: well, did anyone defend the practice of geotracking on the cell phones, and can you turn them off? >> guest: well, there's a lot of discussion of turning them off and app l and google said, first of all, you have to give your consent to turn on, but, yes, they both said you can turn it off relatively easily, that tracking capability. they don't like the word tracking because it's like they track your movements for purpose. they did talk as did jonathan zuck about people want these applications. they are not forced to download the applications, but they are paying for them. whether it's gps or applications
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allowing people to know where they kid is or applications for coupons for stores, they are popular applications. >> host: google was remitted by -- remitted by alan davidson. >> here's how it works. when i first took my android phone out of the box, one the first screens i saw asked me in plain language to affirmatively choose whether or not to share location information with google. a screen shot is include the in the testimony and on the board over here. if the user doesn't juice to turn it on at set up or go into settings later, the phone will not send any information back to google's location servers. if they opt in, the user opts in, all location data sent back to google's location serves is anonymous and not traceable to a specific user or device and users can later change their mind and turn it often. beyond this, we require every
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third party application to notify users that it listen accessing location information before the user installs the app. the user has the opportunity to cancel the installation if they don't want information collected. we believe that this approach is essential for location services. highly transparent information for users about what's collected, opt-in choice before the location information is collected, and high security standards to protect information. our hope this becomes a standard for the broader industry. we are doing all of this because of our belief in the importance of location based services. many of you are experiencing the benefit of the services, things like seeing realtime traffic, transit maps to aid your commute, gas stations on your car's gps, and it's not just about con convenience. these can be lifesavers. they can help you find the hospital or police station, where to fill a prescription at
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one in the morning for a sick child, and we only scratched the surface of what is possible. for example, google is working with exploited children alarm people within the vint of the missing child. also, warn systems to guide people to evacuation route or safety. >> guest: they are all out of safety applications for these, and the representative from the department of justice pointed out -- while senator franken talked about stalking and domestic violence the concern is someone who wants to do harm to some wife or husband, can use it. the technology can also be used to find those people who might be doing the stalking, the department of justice person pointed out. there are a lot of applications that can be happening. of course, location accuracy is
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enhanced. now, those -- the way that works is it's assumed you don't have to give your permission for use of that, but the location of your phone is important in terms of if you have an emergency and call 9-1-1 as well. >> host: now, paul, can you opt in and opt out at will as far as getting your location tracked? >> guest: it depends. apple says they have an opt-out policy. basically, you can opt out, it's collected unless you opt out. alan davidson said google's is opt in. it's not collected unless you opt into it being collected. however, there's other issues that the senators pointed out. how secure is the data being used? apple said they had a bug in their system and even when you had your phone off, in the background, even if you didn't have location on, information is being collected. they said if you download a
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patch, that's taken care of. however, the information on your deviolation is not encrypted. when they do their next major update of the operating system, that information is encrypted. some members of congress said, okay, you're making some progress, but there's a lot of questions still. even if a person gives concept and knows what's it's used for, how secure is the information because the other concern as the justice department person pointed out is cyberhacking. we have not talked about that. we just talked about, okay, my information is being sold, and i don't know about it. basically, it's one big world of a pc and the mobile device now. it's one big internet if you will. >> host: so what does it say that this has been known in a sense for awhile and congress is just kind of hearing about it? >> guest: i mean, i think it's because apps are so big now. until five years ago, it was a void world in mobile.
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now, a third of the revenues come from data, and that's only going to increase. when your program and others have done things about spectrum crunches, and the reason for that according to fcc and others is because people use data applications. i think it's because the app world exploded if you will. it's going to be inevitable, if you will, once they became so popular and smart phones are popular. they used to be very expensive and they were used by kind of the higher end market. now, the projection show that more than half, well over half of people have smart phones, and, you know, these days almost everyone seems to have one. >> host: senator coburn is the ranking member, and here's part of his opening statement. >> i think we need to be very careful on this idea of security because the great education example i know is we spend $64 billion a year on i.t. on the
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federal government, and we are breached daily. we should not be requesting the standard that we cannot even live up to at the federal government, so the concern is an accurate one, but i think we have to work on what that standard would be, whether it's a good faith effort or something, but to say somebody is liable for a breach of security when we all know, almost every system in the world can be breached today. we need to be careful with how far we carry that. >> guest: yeah, he was talking to the federal trade commission and department of justice representatives. no one is saying it's perfect. no one says unless you are perfect, basically you're liable because there's no perfection in the siebl world. they said there has to be a standard taking reasonable measures to protect the data, and if you don't, they say there could be some sort of liability.
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now, others go further. senator bluenthal said we need a private right of action. there might be some of that into it. he also said at that hearing in the opening comment which was interesting saying we need a lot of more information knowledge before we come to conclusion about what should or needs to be done. he's more he has at that particular time if you will to say wsh hesitant to say we need legislation and we need it now. >> host: is this a partisan issue then? >> guest: the democrats are much more eager to move forward. i won't say it's necessarily partisan. there were no other republicans there, so it's not -- in the house, both republicans and democrats expressed concern. joe barton expressed concerns about location based data and how it's collected. i guess i say no, it's not
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partisan. members of both parties are concerned about it. >> host: are there future hearings on this issue scheduled? >> guest: i think there are. i think we with expect future hearings. i think senator franken did not say when there's a hearing or whether there's another hearing. in the house, there's a lot of letters back on forth on the issues. i think we can probably expect hearings in both houses this year. >> host: was there any talk, paul kirby about the shape of legislation to come from this? >> guest: well, one of the issues is and the other thing we're waiting for is the obama administration is coming forth with a cyberplan. the department of justice said at the hearing and another recent hearing saying it will have location based technology service in it and other aspects to it. it's much broader than just location based so there's that. senator leahy wants to update the communications act, and he wants to do that in fairly short
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order order, so, i mean, there's several things floating around if you will to be expected. there are some broader data breach legislation that's been introduced that has been introduced in the past as well. again, those are broader pieces, but certainly location based and mobile could be a part of those bills as well. >> host: is there the mood in the cock to pass disturb congress to pass this? >> the mood is the deficit and some of the issues going on between congress and the white house and national security and things like that. next year's on election year, and it's hard getting closer and closer. i don't like to predict when they may do, but certainly, it's a hot topic. >> host: finally, do you see a lot of push back from the apples and google's of the world? >> guest: we have the carriers too. they sent letters saying what are you doing and what's your role in this? their response was, well, when
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we -- when we send apps out, if we have something to do with the apps, we make sure there's consent, but we don't have control over what people download on to their phones, so, i guess there's push back, but i think some people realize, some of the companies realize that there is a need for some sort of framework anyway. one thing about the broader data base breach legislation is there's laws in 40 states, but no national law. when you have 40 state laws, there's a concern there's too many laws to have to follow. there are companies saying, look, we need some sort of reasonable framework so people have confidence in the data data gopher over the internet. >> host: thank you for helping us to frame this phone tracking hearing that was held this week. by the way, if you want to watch the entire hearing, you can go to and search our video library.
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it's readily available, and you can watch it for free. well, joining us now on the phone is amy shots from the "wall street journal" breaking a story this week. what was the story you broke? >> caller: she's leaving to be part of the government relations. >> host: was this is surprise? >> caller: it was. a lot of folks thought she would be renominated. he was at ntia for a number of years, but i think this was a surprise for folks. >> host: now, were there any conflicts of interest in the last couple of months that people should be aware of? >> caller: well, four months ago, she did, in fact, vote for comcast, $13.5 billion deal to acquire nbc universal so that raises eyebrows around town,


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